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Zambians Question US Vice President's Africa Trip

FILE - US Vice President Kamala Harris addresses youth during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington D.C., December 13, 2022

WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris' upcoming trip to Zambia has been met with skepticism by locals in the southern African nation who question the purpose of her visit.

The announcement by U.S. officials left a cross section of Zambians asking whether the Harris visit is a reaction to growing Chinese influence in the southern African nation.

The East Asian superpower recently built two state-of-the-art international airports in Zambia and launched a hydropower station, this despite government data released in 2021 showing Zambia owed Chinese creditors nearly $6 billion of its $17 billion external debt.

Despite continuous statements uttered by U.S. officials that have visited Africa from Washington looking to promote human rights and democracy on the continent, Fred Mmembe, the president of Zambia’s Socialist Party said the Biden administration is solely focusing on their geopolitical interests.

"They (the U.S.) have not hidden that Zambia is playing a key role in the anti-China crusade," Mmembe said.

"It’s not democracy and human rights they are pursuing in Africa. They are pursuing their geopolitical interests; they are pursuing their own economic interests. It is not for us, it is for them," he added.

Walter Mwambazi, a Zambian pastor and author echoed Mmembe’s sentiments.

"America has seen an opportunity through the current head of atate who is western friendly or pro-West, although he doesn’t say that but obviously, he is a darling of the West. They feel they have an ally," Mwambazi said.

Kennedy Kalunga, Zambia’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information disagreed with Mwambazi emphasizing that his government is non-aligned and practices "all-weather" friendly relations with both the East and the West.

"We need to be linked everywhere; we need to be linked with everyone in the world," Kalunga said.

"For business you don’t need to choose who to sell your product to, to whoever has the money to invest in Zambia, and our policy is they have to partner with the Zambian people," he added.

Through a statement released last week, U.S. Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said the upcoming visit by the vice president will focus on promoting regional democracy, economic growth, and food security.

Judith Mulenga, the chairperson of the Civil Society Constitution Agenda said she is hopeful that Harris will stick to her agenda.

"I hope that Vice President Kamala Harris will follow up on those issues of how is our democracy strengthening. The UNDP (United Party for National Development) rode in on the promise that they will get rid of corruption. So far, we hear there’s a lot of publicity about arrests, but there’s been very slow successful prosecution rates,"Mulenga said.

"We’ve seen not any high-level corruption charges that have been successfully prosecuted in the courts of law," she added.

Harris will begin her Africa tour in Ghana, then heading to Tanzania and Zambia.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.